The United States had qualified for seven consecutive Under-20 World Cups, and with CONCACAF receiving four berths to this summer’s tournament in Colombia, there was little doubt that an American squad filled with pro players would take care of business at the qualifying tournament in Guatemala City.
But on Wednesday night, facing the Guatemalans in the quarterfinals, the Americans stumbled. With a 2-1 loss, they will miss the World Cup for the first time since 1995. One has to wonder, after faltering with such a seasoned roster, whether the U.S. Soccer Federation will shake up the coaching staff.
The silver lining: The eight U-20 players from MLS clubs won’t miss any league time this summer. That group includes D.C. United defender Perry Kitchen, a U.S. and DCU starter. United also benefitted, to some extent, from Honduras’ 2-0 loss to Panama because midfielder Andy Najar, 18, would’ve been eligible for the Catrachos in Colombia.
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In reality, though, Honduras would have had to decide whether to select Najar for the senior national team at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup or the U-20 tournament. United wouldn’t have released him for both tournaments, and because FIFA does not require clubs to free players for secondary events, such as the U-20s, United could’ve blocked it.
If Honduras had decided to leave him off the Gold Cup roster, United would’ve relented on U-20 duty. It’s a moot point now: No U-20s for Honduras and Najar, who seems certain to receive a Gold Cup call-up in June.
Kitchen is expected back in Washington for United’s match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night.